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The Protection of Your Home Against Air Raids


British Government, "The Protection of Your Home Against Air Raids", 1938.

âIn the next war, with its overwhelming air raids, its gases blotting out life over square miles, its bacilli, possibly its rays, munitions works and the services of the rear will be special objects of attack.â

- Irwin Will, The Next War: An Appeal to Common Sense, E. P. Dutton, New York, 1921, p77 (best-seller first published by Dutton in April 1921, 23rd printing, October 1921).

âThe chemical Warfare Research Department [prior to 1927] had been making experiments to determine how long persons could remain under certain conditions in a âgas-proofâ room ... a broadcast in February [1927] by Professor Noel Baker, on âForeign Affairs and How They Affect Usâ ... claimed, âall gas experts are agreed that it would be impossible to devise means to protect the civil population from this form of attackâ. The Chemical Warfare Research Department emphatically disputed the accuracy both of the details of the picture and of this general statement. They considered it unfortunate that statements of this nature should have been broadcast to the public, particularly after the Cabinetâs decision that the time was not ripe for education of the public in defensive measures.â

- T. H. OâBrien, Civil Defence (official U.K. history), 1955, p31.

Noel-Baker claimed in that February 1927 BBC radio broadcast, Foreign Affairs and How they Affect Us:

ââIn the first phase of the next war,â says a high authority, âthere is little doubt that the belligerents will resort to gas bomb attack on a vast scale. This form of attack upon great cities, such as London or Paris, might entail the loss of millions of lives in the course of a few hours. Gas clouds so formed would be heavier than air and would flow into the cellars and tubes in which the population had taken refuge. As the bombardment continued, the gas would thicken up until it flowed through the streets of the city in rivers. All gas experts are agreed that it would be impossible to devise means to protect the civil population from this form of attackâ.â (Source: Peter Adey, Aerial Life, Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, p189.)

Noel-Baker, a popular athlete, won a Nobel Peace prize and become a Lord. Despite the failure of disarmament (and schemes for an international police system to prevent weapons proliferation and use) and the disaster of public support for appeasement due in part to his anti-civil defense groupthink polemics in the 1930s, Noel-Baker still continued in 1980 to deny any possibility of civil defense being of value under any circumstances (this time by examining only the worst and least probable possibility, proved in WWII to be a contrived, unbalanced piece of sophistry (like denying the value of hospitals, seat-belts or life-boats by the trick of only considering worst-case eventualities where they are of minimal utility). This was proved no "accident" by the fact that Noel-Baker continued precisely the same false allegation that disarmament is contrary to civil defense during the House of Lords Home and Civil Defence Debate on 5 March 1980 (Hansard, vol 406 cc260-386):

â... I want to argue that no measure of civil defence, in any war which we can realistically expect to have, will save a single life, and that to nurse a hope of safety from civil defence is to indulge a self-deceiving, futile and dangerous illusionâself-deceiving and futile because, as I said, civil defence will not save our lives; dangerous because it diverts attention from the only policy that gives us any genuine hope. It makes the public think that there will be safety where no safety is. It obscures the fact that the only way to avert disaster is to avert the war, and to abolish those offensive weapons without which aggressions cannot be begun. ... My Lords, the first atom bomb weighed two kilogrammesâless than 5 lbs [sic]. ... Against such a danger civil defence offers us no help ...â

Noel-Baker was never openly criticised for his propaganda and also dismissed civil defence against biological warfare in a letter to the New Scientist (14 Dec 1961, no 265, p700), after they published an article called âBiological agents in warfare and defenceâ by Dr LeRoy D. Fothergill of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps:

âMay I express my gratitude to you for publishing the article ... Dr Fothergill writes with admirable restraint ... very little progress has been made in ... defending the citizen ... there is at present no defence against them, and none likely in the measurable future.â

Fothergillâs article (aimed at raising concern to encourage more research and defences) gave outdoor data for wind dispersion of spores released by a ship off the Californian coast in 1950. Being inside with the windows closed gives good protection while the cloud is blown past (even anthrax has a half life of only 25 minutes outdoors in bright sunlight in dry air and less in humid air; see Field Manual FM 3-3, 1992, Fig. B-1). Noel-Baker seized on an omission as if proof that countermeasures do not exist, exactly what he had done in 1927 when the government kept civil defence experiments and weapons effects facts secret.

âIn May 1929, the Womenâs International League for Peace and Freedom sponsored a conference in Frankfurt on âmodern methods of warfare and the protection of civil populationsâ. ... While the overall objective of the proceedings was to enhance pleas for disarmament, individual participants did so by calling attention to the stakes of future wars ... conference speakers emphasized that âthe worst of the past gives little idea of what would be the horrible reality of a future war,â one where âthe civil population ... will be massacred by gas bombs from thousands of aeroplanes ...ââ

â Professor Susan R. Grayzel, At Home and Under Fire, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp149-50 (citing Getrud Woker, âThe Effects of Chemical Warfare,â in Les methodes modernes de guerre et la protection des populations civiles / Chemical Warfare: An Abridged Report of Papers Read at an International Conference at Frankfurt, London, 1930, p45).

âMost of the books and pamphlets on the subject seem to me to be of the nature of propaganda ... a great many opponents of the Government state that such things as gas-masks and gas-proof rooms are completely useless, that London could be wiped out in a single air raid ... a frightful responsibility rests on those who expose British children to such a death in order to score a point ... In 1915 ... I was at that time a captain in a British infantry battalion and was brought out of the trenches to St. Omer, where I assisted my father in the design of some of the first gas masks. ... one would be safe in a phosgene concentration of one part per thousand, of which a single breath would probably kill an unprotected man. Hence in practice such a mask is a very nearly complete protection. ... These gases can penetrate into houses, but very slowly. So even in a badly-constructed house one is enormously safer than in the open air. ... even if a new gas is produced, it is very unlikely that it will get through our respirators. ... Now all the poisonous gases and vapours used in war are heavier than air, so it is thought that they would inevitably flood cellars ... But within a short time it would be mixed with many times its volume of air. Now air containing one part in 10,000 of phosgene is extremely poisonous. But its density exceeds that of air by only one part in 4,000.â

- Professor J. B. S. Haldane, A.R.P., 1938.

âEver since the Armistice, three classes of writers have been deluding the long-suffering British public with lurid descriptions of their approaching extermination in the next war ... pure sensationalists, ultra-pacifists, and military experts. ... they do want to get their manuscript accepted for the feature page of the Daily Drivel or the Weekly Wail. In order to do that, they must pile on the horrors thick ... The amount of damage done by such alarmists cannot be calculated, but is undoubtedly very great. ... It is significant that they concentrate almost unanimously on poison gas, and that the dangers of high explosive and incendiary bombs are seldom stressed. The reason, of course, is obvious â poison gas has a much greater news value. It is still a new and mysterious form of warfare, it is something which people do not understand, and what they do not understand they can readily be made to fear. ... Millions of people, perhaps, have been impressed by the authority and reputation of Mr H. G. Wells into believing that this picture represents the plain truth.â

- Professor James Kendall (a 1917 Chemical Warfare Liaison Officer), Breathe Freely! The Truth About Poison Gas, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1938, pp. 11-13.

â... in spite of the tremendous scale of the violations it still took the Germans five years, from January 1933 when Hitler came in to around January 1938, before they had an army capable of standing up against the French and the British. At any time during that five-year period if the British and the French had had the will, they probably could have stopped the German rearmament program ... one of the most important aspects of the interwar period [was] the enormous and almost uncontrollable impulse toward disarmament ... As late as 1934, after Hitler had been in power for almost a year and a half, [British Prime Minister] Ramsey McDonald still continued to urge the French that they should disarm themselves by reducing their army by 50 per cent, and their air force by 75 per cent. In effect, MacDonald and his supporters urged one of the least aggressive nations in Europe to disarm itself to a level equal with their potential attackers, the Germans. ... Probably as much as any other single group I think that these men of good will can be charged with causing World War II. [Emphasis by Kahn.]. ... At no time did Hitler threaten to initiate war against France and England. He simply threatened to âretaliateâ if they attacked him. ... an obvious prototype for a future aggressor armed with H-bombs ...â

- H. Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, 1960, pp. 390-1 and 403.

Future President John F. Kennedy college thesis, Why England Slept, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1962 (first published 1940), pages 7, 169, 170 and 179:

Page 7: âWhat had England been doing while Hitler was building up this tremendous German Army?... To say that all the blame must rest on the shoulders of Neville Chamberlain or of Stanley Baldwin is to overlook the obvious. As the leaders, they are, of course, gravely and seriously responsible. But, given the conditions of democratic government, a free press, public elections, and a cabinet responsible to Parliament and thus to the people, given rule by the majority, it is unreasonable to blame the entire situation on one man or group.â

Page 169: â... I believe, as I have stated frequently, that leaders are responsible for their failures only in the governing sector and cannot be held responsible for the failure of a nation as a whole ... I believe it is one of democracyâs failings that it seeks to make scapegoats for its own weaknesses.â

Page 170: âHerbert Morrison, the able British Labour Leader ... was being criticised in 1939 for co-operating with the Government ... âAt the beginning I got plenty of abuse from the irresponsibles because I said that Labour administrators must play their full part in A.R.P. [Air Raid Precautions, i.e. civil defense], which was denounced as a fraud and a plot... to create war psychology. For Labour local authorities to co-operate with state departments in this task was treachery ... no A.R.P. could possibly be effectiveâ.â

Page 179: â... the dictator is able to know exactly how much the democracy is bluffing, because of the free Press, radio, and so forth, and so can plan his moves accordingly.â

Professor Susan R. Grayzel, At Home and Under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Britain from the Great War to the Blitz (Cambridge University Press, 2012) finds that (p176):

âa variety of voices reflected on the enormous destructive potential of air power in interwar Britain, and many determined to prevent the imagined horrors of the next war from coming true. Several important constituent bodies of the nation â including key segments of women, trades unionists, and members of the state itself â worked fervently for disarmament and to challenge efforts to accept aerial and perhaps even chemical attacks as somehow inevitable in a future war.â

See also: The effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (the secret U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey report 92, Pacific Theatre) located at:

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